I have a confession to make.
I suffer from “Everything Will Be Perfect When…” Syndrome.
When I was a young, naive, un-agented writer (i.e. seven months ago,) I was convinced that all the problems in my life would be solved if I could just get an agent. I spent a lot of time floating around in a pool of malaise, wondering why nobody wanted to represent me. I tweaked my query letter. I did more research. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to get signed with my first book, I wrote a different book. Every time a friend asked me how things were going, I would bemoan my lack of an agent. My constant refrain was, “If someone would just sign me, everything would be perfect.”
And then, in July, someone did. And it was AWESOME. Really, really, REALLY awesome. And I cheered and jumped up and down and drank champagne. For a brief time, things did feel perfect, and I was totally happy.
And then we went on submission.
As it turned out, going on submission SUCKS. Having an agent does not prevent it from sucking. I was stressed out all the time. I had a hard time eating. I developed a Pavlovian panic response to the email alert sound on my phone. And when people saw me tearing my hair out and asked how I was, I said, “If I could just sell my book, everything would be perfect.”
And then, in October, it sold. I was official, I felt validated, and people started taking me seriously. I got to walk past the Random House offices and casually say, “Why look, there’s my publisher.” My friends bought me lots of celebratory lunches and drinks, which I could now happily consume because my stomach was no longer in stress-induced knots all the time. I went out to breakfast with my editor, and we got along swimmingly. I started connecting with writers all over the internet, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I’d found my community. For a moment there, life was perfect.
But then the waiting started.
It took three months for me to get my contract, three and a half for me to get my first check, and I’m still waiting for my editorial letter. And now I’m back in the pool of malaise—agented, contracted, with a second book due in the fall—thinking, “If I could just get started on my edits, everything would be perfect.”
And you know what? It won’t be. When I get my notes, I’ll turn into a little stress ball, drinking endless cups of tea and freaking out about my deadline, telling people that when I just finish my revisions, everything will be perfect. And when I turn in those revisions, I’ll start waiting for the next round of edits. The line edits. The copyedits. The first pass pages. Even when I hold that gorgeous, finished book in my hands for the first time, things will only be perfect for a little while. I’ll start revisions on my next book. I’ll have to learn to deal with publicity and marketing and getting bad reviews.
The book industry, as much as I love it, is never going to make my life perfect.
NOTHING will make my life perfect.
And that’s FINE.
Because honestly, things are pretty good. I get to read stories and call it research. I get to write down all the random stuff that goes through my head, post it on the internet, and say I’m “building a strong web presence as a marketing strategy.” I get to buy books and write them off on my taxes. People are paying me to MAKE STUFF UP. As a JOB. Next year, I finally get to send my book out into the world and share MY story and MY characters with all of you.
It won’t be perfect. But it’ll still be good enough.
This post makes my heart ache in solidarity. All I want to say is YES. THIS.
Well, life may not be perfect but this post is! Great perspective and reminder.
I keep saying "I just want to go through the process so I KNOW what it's all about…" even if I don't get an agent I'll know more about myself, the industry, the hard work that the "overnight" success story actually encompasses – and then I'm on to the next book percolating in my over active brain!
"I get to buy books and write them off on my taxes."
Wait–do we really get to do this?!
Alison Cherry says
You can definitely write off books you use for research! I haven't figured out exactly what else I can write off yet… but I'm on the case. 🙂
I can really relate to this post. Thank you for sharing the perspective of someone on the other side of the publishing divide! I can't wait for your book to come out. 🙂